WHAT ARE STD’S?
STD stands for Sexually Transmitted Disease. This means you can be infected with a disease through any kind of sexual activity, including orally, vaginally, and anally. There are more than 25 major STDs.
There are two main categories of STD’s: Bacterial (usually curable) and Viral (incurable).
BACTERIAL STDs are curable if they’re detected early enough; the problem is that there often aren’t any symptoms, so many people don’t even know that they have an STD and can pass on the infection without being aware of it. It is important to see a health care provider and be tested and treated if you have had sex.
A few (but by no means all) of the known bacterial STDs are:
• Chlamydia caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect the penis, vagina, cervix, anus, urethra, eye, or throat.
• Gonorrhea (aka ‘The Clap’) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This infection can be spread by contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus.
• Pelvic inflammatory Disease (PID) caused by bacteria moving from the vagina or cervix into the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, or pelvis, usually due to an untreated disease.
• Syphilis caused by the bacteria Treponema Pallidum. Many of its signs and symptoms are the same as other diseases, so it’s not always easy to diagnose.
• Trichomoniasis caused by infection with a parasite called Trichomonas Vaginalis. It is very common. Symptoms vary, but many people can’t tell that they are infected.
VIRAL STDs are incurable. Once you have one you have it for life.
• Genital Warts / Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans between the ages of 15-49 have been infected with HPV at some point; at least 1/3 of all sexually active young adults have genital HPV infections.
• Hepatitis A, B, & C can destroy the liver. Hepatitis B is most commonly spread sexually.
• Herpes (HSV1 & HSV2) HSV2 most commonly causes genital herpes; many people are unaware they have it, but it’s estimated that 1 in 5 sexually active people in the U.S. over the age of 12 are infected. This can be spread by skin to skin contact.
• HIV (AIDS) Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus called a ‘retrovirus’ that changes a cell’s DNA. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is an acquired syndrome (a group of symptoms) that is caused by infection with HIV.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE STD’S?
The numbers are truly shocking. Over 110 million Americans (1/3 of the population) are now infected with an incurable STD. Each year over 20 million become infected with STDs, and millions of these are teenagers; one in four new STD infections occur in teenagers. Fewer than half of adults 18-44 have ever been tested for an STD other than HIV/AIDS. Because many STDs don’t have symptoms, many people believe they don’t have an STD, so they don’t get tested.
When you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they have had sex with for the last 10 years.
WHAT ARE SOME SYMPTOMS OF STD’S?
Some general symptoms can include:
• Discharge from the penis or vagina
• Burning sensation while urinating
• Genital itching
• Lower abdominal pain
• Dark urine
• Skin rashes or sores
• Yellow eyes
• Joint inflammation
• Enlarged lymph nodes
It is important to understand that many STDs have no obvious symptoms, or only mild ones, but they can still hurt you, so it is important to treat them early. If you have had sex, see a health provider to be tested.
Some long-term effects of STDs can be:
• Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which can lead to infertility.
• Cervical cancer (HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer)
• Chronic pelvic pain
• Tubal (ectopic) pregnancy
• Damage to major body organs
• Death (HIV causes AIDS)
HOW ARE STD’S TREATED?
Bacterial STDs are treated with antibiotics, but any damage already caused may be permanent.
Viral STDs are incurable, although some can be treated.
It is important to seek treatment immediately.
WHAT PREVENTS STD’S?
What does NOT prevent STDs are:
• Oral sex
• Birth control pills
The only thing that is 100% effective is abstinence or in a life-long, committed relationship such as marriage, with both partners faithful and monogamous.